Anyone meeting Frisco RoughRiders‘ manager Joe Mikulik for the first time is immediately struck by one thing… his incredible passion for the game of baseball. Mikulik is back this year as Frisco’s skipper for a third consecutive season. Starting this year, “Mik” had won 1,184 games over his 19-year career as a minor-league manager.
However, Mikulik’s passion for the game isn’t the only thing one notices after meeting and conversing with him. It’s also not hard to feel his immense gratitude for all the opportunities the game has given and continues to give him.
Very lucky, very fortunate,” Milkulik responded when asked for his thoughts on returning to Frisco for a third consecutive campaign. “This is the best place that I’ve ever been in the however many years of my career. This is the best place in the minor leagues. I know there’s some nice places out there, but I’m very lucky.”
Not only is he grateful to be managing in one of the top venues in Minor League Baseball in Dr Pepper Ballpark, and for working in the Rangers organization, but he’s also aware just how blessed he is to continue to do so close to where he calls home.
I’m 35 minutes from here. I pinch myself. I slap myself if I take it for granted, and I tell my coaches if I’m not here today, bust me upside the head and wake me up,” Mikulik joked. “If you’re in the minor leagues, look around because this is where you want to be. But being close to my wife, being able to see her a lot is important. Family is important. But just being in this area, in Frisco, and working with the front office here, it’s unbelievable. It’s pretty cool.”
Besides being someone who has won over 1,100 games during his nearly two-decade successful run as a minor-league manager, something else Mikulik has become known for is the number of times he’s been tossed from games. He often leaves with a bit of flair and panache… sometimes doing things like throwing bases.
These moments are forever immortalized on YouTube and Matt Lipka, a McKinney native who is in his first year with Frisco, admits he was already familiar with Mikulik thanks to several of those videos he and a teammate watched last season while he was playing in the Atlanta organization.
I think I was in Triple-A last year and one my buddies showed me… ‘Look at this guy! He punted second base!!’ I saw that and I think I saw two or three more (videos). It was just awesome. We didn’t have anyone like that,” Lipka said.
Frequently, Mikulik’s outbursts have resulted from simple circumstances like when he felt one of his players or his team had been wronged by a bad call from an umpire or a questionable play from an opposing player. This fiery manager hits the diamond to take up for his players and/or his team. And, for guys like Lipka, that’s exactly the sort of manager every player wants to suit up for.
Obviously, from a player’s perspective, he’s going out there and he’s fighting for his guys and that goes a long way. I already told him if he gets tossed this year, I’ll pay his fine. Then, I’ll have a steak in there hopefully in about an hour,” Lipka said.
But Mikulik isn’t only defined by his fiery side, he also has a softer side as someone who has been in the game for his entire adult life. During the RoughRiders’ Media Day in early April, he relayed a story of how during his days playing for the Columbus Astros, Houston’s old Double-A affiliate in the Southern League, he had friends and family coming to see him play on the road. However, the young Mikulik didn’t tell his manager about everyone coming to see him play, and he wasn’t in the lineup that night.
As a player, I would never go up to the manager. I was always scared to go into the manager’s office, I was terrified,” Mikulik recalled. “I thought if you go in the manager’s office, next thing you know, you’re out. You go find another job.”
But since becoming a minor-league manager, he has always told his players to let him know when their family is coming to town so he can make sure they’re in the lineup.
(I tell them) when your family comes to town, let me know. Moms and dads, friends, girlfriends, everyone. They spend a lot of money. They plan their vacations around coming to see their kid play,” Mikulik said. “It breaks my heart if they’re here, I don’t have them in the lineup, and they don’t say anything to me. That’s happened in the past.”
So make sure you don’t miss Joe Mikulik this RoughRiders’ season. He treats and handles players by motivating them through his positive energy all year.